RSS Feed
Aug 11 2009

Tutorial: Tote Bag

Tote Bags

Making a tote bag is a great way to both use up scrap fabric and promote reusable shopping bags. I like to choose a fun print and a coordinating solid color to line the bag. Quilters’ “fat quarters” are almost but not quite big enough to use for these totes, and I’m thinking about playing around with a fat quarter version of this bag that would involve piecing together the main fabric.

Materials Needed:

  • 1/2 yd Main Fabric
  • 1/2 yd Lining Fabric
  • Loop Turner
  • Dressmaker’s Shears
  • Pinking Shears
  • Thread
  • Thread Scissors
  • Sewing Machine

Finished Dimensions:

10.5″ wide by 11″ tall (not counting handles)


This tutorial assumes a working knowledge of sewing terms and techniques. Leave a comment if you’d like some definitions of these terms!

1. Fold the main fabric selvage to selvage with right sides together; the fold will become the bottom of the bag. Measure a 12″ by 12″ square and cut out so that you end up with a piece of fabric that is 24″ by 12″. Do not unfold.

2. Cut four 16″ by 2″ rectangles from the main fabric (I usually cut two from fabric next to where I cut out the bag, and then cut along the fold to give me two pieces each for a total of four). Layer these with right sides together to give you two handles. Set aside.

Main Fabric Bag and Handle Pieces

3. Repeat Step 1 with the lining fabric.

Tote Lining Fabric

4. Pin the sides of the main fabric, and sew a seam 1/2″ from the edge on each side. This forms the sides of the bag. At the bottom of the seam, carefully avoiding cutting the stitches, cut diagonally towards the edge of the seam allowance (this will make it easier to press the seam). Press the seams open, and then trim with pinking shears (trimming is optional but recommended).

Main Fabric, Side Seams Sewn

5. Repeat Step 4 with the lining fabric.

Lining Fabric, Side Seams Sewn

6. Turn the lining right side out and slide the inside-out main fabric into the lining. This will give us an inside out bag.

Inside Out Tote

7. With the main and lining fabric held together, fold the top down 1/4″ and press. This is tricky, but worth the effort. Fold again 1″ (this will hide the 1/4″ fold you just made) and press again.

Folded and Pressed

8. Pin the pressed folds and stitch a seam as close to the lower fold as possible (this secures the bottom fold). Stitch another seam about 1/8″ to 1/4″ in from the top fold. Press.

Seams Sewn to Secure the Lining

9. Turn the bag right-side out and push the bottom corners of the lining as far into the bottom corners of the main fabric as possible. This gives you the nice rectangle shape of the tote bag. Set bag aside.

10. With right sides together, pin two handle pieces together down one side and stitch a seam 1/2″ in from the edge. Repeat this on the other side. Repeat with the other two handle pieces.

Sewn Handle Pieces

11. Press the seams open and trim (this will help make it easier to turn right side out).

Ready to Turn Right-Side Out

12. Using a loop turner, turn the handles right side out. It took my a while to figure the loop turner out, but these handles are pretty easy to turn. Press the handles; I usually roll the handle between my fingers until the seams even out and I can press it.

Pressed Handles, Ready to Attach

13. Either fold the raw edges of the handles back 1/4″ to 1/2″ or roll the raw edges to the inside of the handle. Press, pin, and sew a seam 1/8″ in to secure the edge.

14. Place and pin the handles. I like to place mine on the inside of the bag, with the outer edge of the handle about 2″ in from the side seams. Make sure that you pin them so that the handles do not twist.

Handles Do Not Twist

15. When you are happy with the placement of the handles, sew them using the seams along the top of the bag as guides for placement.

Finished Tote

16. Congratulations! You’ve finished your tote bag!

If you make a bag using my tutorial, would you mind posting a link to a photo? I’ve been experimenting with these, and plan to continue; I’d love to see what other people come up with!

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: ,

More posts…

One Response to “Tutorial: Tote Bag”

Running Commentary:
  1. Sarah says:

    Wow, it’s so nice. I will definitely make it. Thank you for the tutorial!